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Play during the occupation

Wartime was sometimes a difficult period for children but this did not discourage them from continuing to play. The war had a great appeal and offered them a great deal of inspiration for fantasy play. They marched along with passing troops, sang satirical songs and tore German ordinances from the walls. They collected souvenirs and began a trade ...

American shops

During The First World War, the Belgian population was dependent on foreign food aid. The Nationaal Hulp- en Voedingscomité played a crucial role in the distribution of the imported foodstuffs. To this end, the committee opened its own sales points, which the population could visit to buy sugar, corn, tinned meat, rice and other staple products. ...

Ludwig von Falkenhausen at the head of the occupation regime

On 26 August 1914, the German high command established a military administration in Belgium to run the occupation smoothly. This administration was called the General Governorate, and was led by a general governor. Moritz von Bissing occupied this position from December 1914 until his death in April 1917. After his death, the German military ...

Dogs under the occupation

Because so many horses and donkeys were requisitioned in occupied Belgium, dogs had to provide even more pulling power than before the war. They were harnessed to dogcarts and pulled the milkman's milk, the baker's bread, and the farmer's children. However, the Germans, who were not familiar with the practice, rejected dogcarts as ...

A Christmas spirit with a dark side

The first Christmas at the front, in 1914, passed in a remarkable atmosphere. At the start of hostilities, the soldiers had hoped for a short war. They had expected to be home long before Christmas and were surprised to find themselves still in the trenches. This is why there was little will to fight amongst many of the soldiers. This attitude was ...

New Year's greetings and gunshots

After the spontaneous Christmas truce of December 1914, army command was not eager for any new fraternization between the contesting parties. On New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, rifle shots rang out and the guns pounded as usual. Yet, some soldiers still tried to give the passing of the first year at the front a festive character. ...

American help for the Belgians

On the eve of the war, Belgium was dependent for a great part of its food supply on imports. Because of the British maritime blockade, imports came to a standstill. As a result, food supplies quickly became problematic, particularly in the cities. In order to feed the population, a gigantic aid programme was set in motion undertaken by two ...

The League of Nations

After 11 November 1918, the cry of 'No war ever again’ sounded out louder than ever before. The countries that negotiated the peace accord were in agreement that the text of the treaty should contain sufficient guarantees to prevent future wars. One of these guarantees was the foundation of a League of Nations that would devote itself to ...

To the Yser: the front stabilises

In August 1914, the Germans advanced in a southerly and westerly direction through Belgium. They soon reached the French-Belgian border, but they were halted at the Marne by French and British troops.    The German military command would subsequently change plans and attempt to break through to Paris by tracing an arc west. The ...

Through Belgium to Paris: the German invasion of Belgium

In the wake of the attack on the Austrian heir in June 1914, tensions between the European great powers escalated rapidly. However, the Belgians were not all that concerned: their country was neutral and so did not have to be afraid of becoming involved in a potential conflict. But this was without taking account of the German Schlieffen Plan, a ...

A new role for women?

In Great Britain, the army swallowed up an important part of the male workforce during The First World War. Women often took over their work in the factories, or in the fields, temporarily. However, the efforts of women had little impact on their post-war role. In Belgium, the scope of the employment of women in the war industry, and in the ...

Bronzed heroines

Although many spies from The First World War remained anonymous for good, some achieved heroic status. In this way, Edith Cavell was turned into a model of resistance immediately after her execution. This British citizen had been the head of the first Belgian nursing school since 1907. Following the German invasion, she became the central figure ...

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